Saturday, August 24, 1985

50 years ago: Carter Family “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye)” charted

Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)

The Carter Family

Writer(s): Ada R. Habershon, Charles H. Gabriel, A.P. Carter (adapted by) (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 24, 1935


Peak: 17 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.1 video, 5.16 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In his book Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Steve Sullivan says this is “perhaps the most beloved traditional song in all of country music.” SS “The power of its performance and its message – of sadness over the death of a loved one, transcended by contentment that she’s gone to a better place, and the knowledge that the family circle will continue – has resonated over the years.” SS

It originated in 1907 as a gospel song by Ada R. Habershon and Charles Gabriel originally titled “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” According to Country Music Sources, the first country recording was done by Frank & James McCravy in 1927. Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter rewrote the verses and retitled the song “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” but kept the melody and the chorus. SS The song was now set at a funeral with mourners pondering if they would ever be reunited with their mother.

The Carter Family – consisting of A.P., his ex-wife Sara, and sister-in-law Maybelle, recorded the song in 1935. The trio were considered “the standard-bearers for the hillbilly songs that traced their heritage back to the first British folk melodies.” AC According to author Ace Collins, when it came to the Carter Family’s recording of “Unbroken” “those suffering through the Depression in the hills and valleys clung to it as if it were a personal statement of faith. It quickly became one of the most popular funeral hymns.” AC

In 1968, Johnny Cash recorded “Daddy Sang Bass,” a song written by Carl Perkins that was based on “Unbroken.” Cash tapped the new version of the Carter Family, which consisted of Maybelle Carter and her daughters, to add harmonies. Daughter June married Cash that year. The song received attention again in 1972 when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded an album called Will the Circle Be Unbroken which consisted of country classics with country legends like Maybelle Carter and others. It has also been recorded by Roy Acuff, Gregg Allman, Joan Baez, the Band, the Black Crowes, Jeff Buckley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Moby, Bill Monroe, the Neville Brothers, Ralph Stanley, Mavis Staples, and Gene Vincent. WK


Resources:

  • AC Ace Collins (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York, NY; The Berkley. Pages 27-8.
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 39-40.
  • WK Wikipedia


Related Links:


First posted 8/24/2022; last updated 8/27/2022.

Saturday, August 10, 1985

50 years ago: “Cheek to Cheek” hit #1 for first of 11 weeks

Cheek to Cheek

Fred Astaire with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra

Writer(s): Irving Berlin (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 3, 1935


Peak: 111 US, 15 HP, 11 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.81 video, -- streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Ella & Louis version):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Many of the era’s top songwriters worked with Astaire, smitten by “his debonair touch with a song” TM and dance numbers, usually with Ginger Rogers, which rank “among the most powerful expressions of courtship, love and loss in screen history.” TM Over the years, composer Irving Berlin crafted thirteen songs which landed in Astaire movies – all of which peaked at #15 or higher. “Cheek to Cheek,” which Berlin wrote in a day, was one of three to hit #1. TM It wasn’t just any #1, though; it “became one of Berlin’s greatest commercial successes,” TY spending more weeks atop the pop charts than any other song from 1935. WHC

Berlin used Astaire’s “frail-but-convincing tenor” TM to his advantage writing lines like “And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak” to accompany a melody which jumped up to a note Astaire could barely sing. TM

The dance sequence for the song became he and Ginger Rogers’ “most famous romantic duet,” but it was not without problems. SB When Astaire sang and danced to it in the 1935 film Top Hat, Rogers wore a gown covered with ostrich feathers which, to Astaire’s horror, shed with every dance movement.” SB He later said, “It was like a chicken attacked by a coyote, I never saw so many feathers in my life.” SB

Despite Astaire’s reaction, Rogers was determined to wear the dress. Seamstresses were able to largely resolve the problem in time for another shoot the next day, but some hard feelings lingered. Astaire and Hermes Pan, the film’s choreographer, “serenaded Rogers with a parody of the song: ‘Feathers – I hate feathers/ And I hate them so that I can hardly speak/ And I never find the happiness I seek/ With those chicken feathers dancing/ Cheek to Cheek.’” SB Astaire later gave Rogers a small gold feather for her charm bracelet as well as a note saying, “Dear Feathers, I love ya! Fred.” SB

“Cheek to Cheek” garnered an Academy Award nomination for best song. Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, and Doris Day recorded the song as well. MM It also became a jazz standard being recorded by notables such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.


Resources:

  • MM Max Morath (2002). The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York, NY; Penguin Putnam Inc. Page 154.
  • SB Songbook blog
  • TM Time magazine (10/24/2011). “All Time 100 Songs
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 52.


Related Links:


First posted 7/30/2014; last updated 7/16/2022.

Monday, August 5, 1985

John Cougar Mellencamp released Scarecrow

Uh-Huh

John Cougar Mellencamp


Released: October 23, 1983


Peak: 9 US, 92 UK, 9 CN, 57 AU


Sales (in millions): 3.3 US, -- UK, 3.3 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic heartland rock


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Crumblin’ Down (10/15/83, 9 US, 2 AR, 9 CN, 42 AU)
  2. Pink Houses (10/29/83, 8 US, 3 AR, 15 CN, 69 AU)
  3. Authority Song (2/18/84, 15 US, 15 AR, 41 CN, 93 AU)
  4. Warmer Place to Sleep
  5. Jackie O
  6. Play Guitar (2/4/84, 28 AR)
  7. Serious Business (1/28/84, 34 AR)
  8. Lovin’ Mother Fo Ya
  9. Golden Gates


Total Running Time: 32:59

Rating:

4.148 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)


Quotable: “His first terrific album.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Since American Fool illustrated that John Cougar was becoming an actual songwriter, it’s only proper that he reclaimed his actual last name, Mellencamp, for the follow-up, Uh-Huh. After all, now that he had success, he wanted to be taken seriously, and Uh-Huh reflects that in its portraits of brokenhearted life in the Midwest and its rumbling undercurrent of despair. Although his lyrics still have the tendency to be a little too vague, they are more effective here than ever before, as is his music; he might not have changed his style at all – it’s still a fusion of the Stones and Springsteen – except that he now knows how to make it his own.” STE

Uh-Huh runs out of steam toward the end, but the first half…makes the record his first terrific album.” STE “His best protest song, “Pink Houses”, STE “is the state-of-our-union anthem that John Mellencamp likes to boast about, but the real class-awareness beef of 1983’s Uh-HuhRW is “the punky Authority Song”: STE “‘Call up my preacher... / He said, ‘You don’t need no strength, you need to grow up, son’”).” RW

There’s also the “kidding cynicism” RW of “the dynamic rocker Crumblin’ Down,” STE “the Mellencamp-John Prine collaboration Jackie O,” RW and “the melancholy Warmer Place to Sleep.” STE

“With his Stonesy band crackling behind him, the newly minted superstar also shows that he gets the joke of his ‘serious business’” RW on “the garage rocker Play Guitar,” STE “which might have been the album’s fourth hit single if not for its admonition to ‘forget all about that macho shit.’” RW

Resources and Related Links:


Other Related DMDB Pages:


First posted 1/20/2009; last updated 8/20/2021.